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External Pulsed Plasma Propulsion and Its Potential for the Near FutureThis paper examines External Pulsed Plasma Propulsion (EPPP), a propulsion concept that derives its thrust from plasma waves generated from a series of small, supercritical fission/fusion pulses behind an object in space. For spacecraft applications, a momentum transfer mechanism translates the intense plasma wave energy into a vehicle acceleration that is tolerable to the rest of the spacecraft and its crew. This propulsion concept offers extremely high performance in terms of both specific impulse (Isp) and thrust-to-weight ratio, something that other concepts based on available technology cannot do, The political concerns that suspended work on this type of system (i.e. termination of Project ORION) may now not be as insurmountable as they were in 1965. The appeal of EPPP stems from its relatively low cost and reusability, fast interplanetary transit times, safety and reliability, and independence from major technological breakthroughs. In fact, a first generation EPPP system based on modern-day technology (i.e., GABRIEL - an evolutionary framework- of EPPP concepts) may very well be the only form of propulsion that could realistically be developed to perform ambitious human exploration beyond Mars in the 21st century. It could also provide the most effective approach for deterrence against collision between earth and small planetary objects - a growing concern over recent years.
Document ID
Document Type
Preprint (Draft being sent to journal)
Bonometti, J. A. (NASA Marshall Space Flight Center Huntsville, AL United States)
Morton, P. J. (NASA Marshall Space Flight Center Huntsville, AL United States)
Schmidt, G. R. (NASA Marshall Space Flight Center Huntsville, AL United States)
Date Acquired
September 7, 2013
Publication Date
January 1, 1999
Subject Category
Plasma Physics
Distribution Limits
Work of the US Gov. Public Use Permitted.

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